Do you believe in the power of manifestation? Well, it worked for me. This was my reply to a comment in my post from two years ago. Fast forward to 2023, my kid and I recently travelled to Japan and one of the places we visited is Shimokitazawa in the western part of Tokyo, which is the setting of one of Banana Yoshimoto’s books – “Moshi Moshi”.
“Moshi Moshi” is Yoshimoto’s love letter to Shimokitazawa where she lived for years. In the afterword at the end of the book, she shared how some of the characters were inspired by real people.
Just a short summary of the book, “Moshi Moshi” revolves around Yoshie who moved to Shimokitazawa and was later joined by her mother as they both dealt with the death of their husband-father, who was in a murder-suicide with a lover. Yoshie and her mother tried their best to move forward and build their lives in a new town.
Just like most of Banana Yoshimoto’s books, grief is the central theme in Moshi Moshi. But what sets it apart from her other works is it shows that we deal with grief at different paces. Yoshie moved on more quickly than her mother. What is important is they continued to support each other.
Walking the fabled streets, I felt like Daniel and I embodied Yoshie and her mom starting over in this magical town. As the author depicted, Shimokitazawa is quite charming town and has its own character.
It may look like an uneventful place, but tourists will appreciate its slightly unhurried pace compared to Shinjuku or Shibuya. Since we got there really early, most of the shops are still closed. Many of the establishments open at 10 or 11am. Izakayas (Japanese bars) are open around 5pm and weekdays are definitely less busy than weekends.
“I knew it wasn’t going to last forever – things changed and moved on, and if you thought they could stay the same, they got ruined, like our family had done. Still, I desperately wanted all of this happiness to stay, just the way it was.”
Below are some of the key places in Shimokitazawa as well as some quotes from the book where they are mentioned:
Shimokitazawa is located in Setagaya ward, which is along the Odakyu line. It is known for trendy vintage shops and cafes.
“Sadly, the neighbourhood of Shimokitazawa continues to become a lonelier place. Its wonderful independent shops are disappearing one after the other, being replaced by chain stores and hostess clubs.”
“I got into the taxi, and, as though it was a spell to make everything okay, said: “To Simokitazawa, please.” It was my hometown for now; the place where I had something to protect; the place I was going home to.”
Chazawa-Dori is one of the major arteries in Shimokitazawa, which runs from Sangenjaya Station to Higashi-Kitazawa.
“Chazawa-Dori didn’t get a lot of traffic, and the cars that did pass went by with an easy flow, like people walking along.”
You could say that Ozeki Supermarket is the heart of Shimokitazawa as this is where residents do most of their shopping and is located right outside the train station.
“Work on the checkout at Ozeki, the supermarket? Waitress in a café, or, god forbid, at a late-night bar? Sell vintage clothes? I wanted to ask, but restrained myself. Whatever she said she wanted to do, I thought, I had to be supportive…”
Old photos show the name Moldive, but I am not sure. It is a shame that I did not experience smelling the fragrance of freshly-brewed coffee.
“It was a long-established store called Maldive, where the owner roasted coffee in a machine that sat right there on the shop floor. The incredible fragrance floated down the whole street of shops as he operated the machine with his muscular arms, just as he had done for decades. It always inspired me to enjoy my cup of coffee and make the most of the day.”
“But here, in Shimokitazawa, Mom and I were living our truth. Breathing like ourselves. Couldn’t we start over here, with Dad, all three of us? I thought. It was too late for that. I felt tears rising, and looked out the window.”
Unfortunately, Mother’s Ruins was still closed when we dropped by and was located in the basement of a building. Also, the bistro where Yoshie worked, Les Liens, is permanently closed.